bouncing back with biscuits & gravy

I’m back. 

It’s been about 3 months since my last post- in those months I was busy at work, planning a wedding, getting married and then enjoying a honeymoon then back to everyday life.  I was still cooking (there’s only so much takeaway you can do!) but just didn’t have the time or energy to keep moving at the same pace.

I’m back home, refreshed and relaxed and now wanting to get stuck into my list of ‘things I want to make and eat’. So this weekend it meant biscuits and gravy for brunch yesterday. Biscuits are like scones in Australia but we generally have them sweet  (cream and jam anyone?) but in the US they are more savoury from what I’ve seen, used to mop up sauces and also sandwich together delicious fillings and make a nice breakfast sandwich. I’ve had on recipe on the cards for some time and that will get made soon but there was a similar and much quicker version in a recent gourmet traveller so I decided to give it a go.

It couldn’t have been simpler.

Start with the biscuits- rub the shortening into the dry ingredients, add wet ingredients- bring dough together (gently gently!) pat out and cut out rounds.  Brush tops with butter. Bake. 


Then just keep them warm while you make your sausage gravy- I wrapped mine up in a tea towel.


Sauce was easy like the biscuits- removed sausage from casing and pan fry until golden breaking up into rough chunks with the spoon- remove when crispy golden and in the the same pan make a roux with butter and flour, add milk, stir still thickened, add sausage back into warm- serve with biscuits.

Quick hey?

I wasn’t sure how to serve it so I just spooned the gravy onto warm plates with the biscuits to the side- I split biscuits in half  and spooned the gravy over and sprinkled with some hot sauce.  It’s real comfort food- rich, but super yum and deeply satisfying.  I’d definitely eat this again.  No idea if my biscuits turned out the same as how they  are meant to be (let me know if you do!) but I was happy with eating the end product!


It’s good to be back 🙂

it’s a little rough

I have a love hate relationship with pastry- when it’s great it’s great, and when it’s wrong it’s very very wrong.  

On the list for some time has been rough puff pastry.  I’ve made croissants before and understand the similar process to make puff pastry, but when you can buy it so easily from the shops the time and effort really doesn’t quite seem worth it? But rough puff pastry looked and sounded so much easier so it was just a matter of time until I tried it- like last weekend.

Rough puff pastry needed far less attention than regular puff pastry- ended up being super simple to do, especially since I ignored the first step and used the food processor instead.

This recipe also included thyme and Parmesan in the dough- and it wanted you to rub the butter into the flour with the parmesan and thyme on the bench with a pastry cutter and then incorporate the water into the dough- meh I decided to skip that step and use the food processor instead!

Before….


And then after…


Then off to the fridge to rest and chill.

Once chilled you needed to roll out the pastry into a rectangle about 0.5cm thick- the dough rolled out really easily (all that glorious butter!) but you just had to make sure that the bench was nicely floured.

Then on the longest side fold into the middle like so-


Repeat for the other side..


Then fold in half like a book…


Chill in the fridge and then repeat an other two times- this is something than you can do well in advance and it will sit quite happily in the fridge until you’re ready.

For this particular recipe you just needed to roll out into a large rectangle, cover with leeks cooked in white wine, then top with roasted pumpkin, goats cheese and sprinkle with thyme- fold over the edges and then tuck it away in the oven until golden, puffed and smelling delicious.


The pastry may not look exciting at this stage but when you pull it out you can see the lovely layers in the pastry and it’s super flakey – considering it really took no effort at all this feels like a fool proof pastry method!  

See- layers!


This even heated up really well the next day- took it out of the fridge about an hour before to take the chill off and then popped it in the sandwich press with the top just hovering over the topping- still, crisp, still flakey and still delicious.

So pastry- we’re still on good terms at the moment- I think trying rough puff pastry again I’ll seek out a sausage roll recipe- perfect for the cold weather heading our way.

Try it- really easy and it feels like you put in way more effort than you actually did!

man flu soup

Wonton soup is delicious anytime, but when there’s a case of man flu in the house it’s a go to for dinner.  It seems half of Melbourne has an attack of the sniffles at the moment- I had my bout the week prior where my go to soup is a traditional chicken and veggie soup.  

I remember first making wontons years ago and I was just so amazed at how simple they are to make.  The mixtures I generally use are a pork and prawn base and then there’s lots of little extra’s you can add it for flavour like shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts for crunch, garlic chives, sesame oil, soy sauce and the list really goes on….  

So as always I wanted to try a recipe I hadn’t used before- so I settled on this recipe. Pork, prawn and shiitake mushrooms, in a ginger soy sauce chicken broth with some freshly blanched chinese broccoli and a black vinegar sauce.  I opted not to make the chilli sauce, I just used some chilli oil instead and left the chilli component out of the black vinegar sauce. Lots of lovely ginger in the wontons and the soup broth and garlic in the black vinegar sauce- always great things to eat when you have a cold.

Making the filling was a chop chop chop and mix it up process- you just need to make sure you cut up everything nice and small and mix it really well to work in the corn flour to make a nice sticky filling.  Don’t forget to season the mixture!

I should have bought a smaller pack of wonton skins because I have quite a few left over.  This recipe said it serves 6- that may be ok if it was just an entree- but as this was a main so 4 servings, 32 wontons in total.  Wonton skins are lovely and silky because of the flour to stop them sticking to one another- these are so cheap and can also be used as a way to make cheats tortellini or ravioli in lieu of fresh pasta dough.

Now to fill and shape- one by one by one…


Shaping them is straightforward- place a small amount of mixture in the middle and run a pastry brush that’s been dipped in water along each edge.  Bring two opposite points together to start to form a triangle and seal the edges.  I try to press outwards from the filling to remove any pockets of air.  Then lightly dab the two corners of the long side with the pastry brush and bring together to meet in the middle and press down and pinch to seal.  I work with about four wonton skins at a time.  Do make sure you place some baking paper on the tray so they don’t stick and lay a tea towel over the ones you have made to stop them from drying out.


I placed half in the fridge on a tray whilst preparing the rest of the soup and the other half were on  a tray in the freezer- once frozen you can then bag them up for later use.

Black vinegar sauce was made in a pinch- chop garlic and ginger and mix with the other ingredients.  Soup base followed similar route, heat up the stock with ginger and sesame oil and soy sauce. 


Blanch the chinese broccoli (gai lan) and place in the bowls, boil the wontons and divvy up, pour the hot stock over the top and add the chilli oil and black vinegar sauce to taste.  This soup is so great- you can make the wontons in advance and the assembly when ready takes no time at all. 



Do have some tissues/napkins nearby when eating this- the wontons are quite slippery and can cause bit of a splash when falling back in the bowl (I am not a graceful eater) and I was a little heavy handed with the chilli oil so I was definitely needing the tissues to blow my nose!

The wontons that I placed in the freezer didn’t last for long at all- we had them for lunch today! I have so many wonton skins left over in the fridge so I might make the wontons again this week and set them aside in the freezer.  Perfect for days when I get home from work a bit later.

Do you have a go to recipe when you’re not well? What is it?

it’s ragu weather

A few weeks ago I was really craving a hearty slow cooked meat sauce for pasta- one of those blip away on the stove for hours, make the house smell amazing and be rich and rib stickingly delicious kind of sauces.  Well I found the recipe,made it, froze leftovers and we ate them too over the following weeks.  And it’s in this gloomy, wet, grey and frosty Melbourne weather I’m craving it again.  Glass of red here wouldn’t go astray either!

Ingredient wise it’s not crazy or out there- I opted to grind the meat myself and the only thing you may need to hunt for at a deli would be dried porcini mushrooms and flat pancetta- but if you couldn’t find those things I think you could just sub in dried shitake mushrooms and just your ready sliced pancetta- easy!

Surprise surprise the recipe was from gourmet traveller.  Ragu alla bolognese- it’s straightforward really, brown the minced chuck and pancetta, toss in the veggies (usual bolognese suspects carrot, onion and celery) add the stock and cook it down.  It’s the small additions to this recipe that make it stand out.  Like sprinkling the butter over the meat to melt in, the earthy mushrooms, bitey sage and stirring through a dollop of cream at the very end.  Just writing about it is almost making me dribble onto the keyboard!

First things first- grind the meat (if you don’t buy it ground already).  I use the grinding attachment that I have for my kitchen aid and it is the best thing ever- and actually really well priced in comparison to some of the other attachment bits.


Chop the pancetta into small cubes and brown it with the beef in a really big heavy based pan- I used big blue, my gorgeous big big big Le Creuset.


From this point is just a case of  adding the rest of the ingredients to the pot in a couple of stages and then gradually reducing and cooking down the liquid until you’ve got a lovely rich and thick ragu. The recipe said to cook for about 1.5 hours but I was probably just nudging over the 2 hour mark.

While it was bubbling away I also made some fresh pasta- it was pretty tasty but my only complaint was that I didn’t roll it out thin enough- always time for more practise in the future!  Thanks to the number of egg yolks it was the most glorious yellow colour.

 
When you’re just about ready to roll stir in the cream… 


Toss with the hot cooked pasta- pile into bowls, Parmesan if you please and enjoy…



This sauce is meaty and rich in flavour- very different to your stock standard spag bol where it’s a much more tomato flavoured and much lighter on in flavour.  With the cold weather well and truly at our doorstep set some time aside on the weekend and let this bubble away- even better you’ll have lots of leftovers for other chilly nights.

nailing a tart

It’s about bloody time I finally did a tart justice- -I wanted pastry perfection- well at least something close to that.

A few weeks ago I was flicking thought my gourmet traveller magazine and landed on a delightful chocolate ganache tart recipe- making tasty yummy noises out loud Monkey asked me what I was looking at.  After relaying what it was and seeing his reaction I promised him I’d make it for him over Easter.  So not worried about the ganache filling (it’s all patience) but I wasn’t so sure about nailing the tart- short crust pastry to be exact.

My previous experience with pastry shells have been mixed- shrinking pastry, cracked pastry, undercooked and leaking pastry, overcooked pastry making for a tough eating experience etc etc so whist excited about the choclately goodness that lay ahead I had some mixed emotions about what this goodness would be encased in.

I had a few things to be made that day so I mixed up the dough first.  Generally when making a shortcrust recipe I blitz up the flour and butter in the food processor- however the recipe specifically said minimal handling so I rubbed the butter into the flour and sugar by hand- didn’t take as long as I thought so wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be- end result fine looking breadcrumbs…


Then it was just a matter of mixing in the beaten egg and bringing the dough together- and guess what? It came together easily and beautifully- winning so far.  Then press into a disc shape (makes for easier rolling out into a circle shape) and then into the fridge to relax and chill.


Sufficiently chilled I started to roll out the dough… yeah that wasn’t a great start.  Roll roll roll flip.  Dust with flour… flip again….. then the edges started cracking and swear words began to emerge.  I stopped and took a breath and gathered up the cracks, mended them and rolled out a little slower- the cracks still kept bloody coming but I persevered until the dough was wide enough for the tart tin.

Next challenge- despite my flipping and flouring the dough it was a little delicate to pick up and place in the tin…. How to overcome?  Listen to every single pastry recipe (that I had never listened to) and roll the dough up over the rolling pin and roll back out over the tart tin- worked like a bloody charm!!!! Doing that trick again!  Press into the corners of the tin, smooth out the dough, trim the edges (not too much) and then prick the base with a fork.  The recipe said to chill for about 30 minutes but because I had other stuff happening i the kitchen I left it for an hour or two- given the butter content in the dough this well and truly set which is why I think it didn’t shrink too much. Winning!


Because it was a liquidy filling it needed to be blind baked beforehand.  Blind baking involves popping a lining over the top of the dough and weighting it down and baking for a while- then removing all of that and baking it au naturele for a little longer until lightly golden. This leaves you with a tart case that will stop liquid seeping through the crust while the filling sets.

Tart shell with weights in…


Tart shell once baked…


Isn’t it pretty?  This was then filled with a chocolate ganache mixture and baked until just set- with preferably a slight wobble in the middle. As a side topper white chocolate was melted and then mixed with cream and then whipped- a whole new world opened up to me tasting this- so bloody good I forgot how nice white choclate could be.

What was the end result?  Nice short crisp pastry (it stayed intact and didn’t shatter when sliced!) with a delightfully cool soft chocolates ganache centre- I bloody well nailed a tart for once!


So why did this one not fail???

I think it was because of a few reasons…

This pastry recipe measured everything in grams- even the eggs.  This meant precision and to be honest with baking you need to be precise. 

Secondly I think doing the pastry by hand meant it wasn’t overworked and therefore tough.

Lastly I think the long spell of the pastry in the tin in the fridge meant it was properly chilled which meant less shrinkage in pan which meant more room for the filling and less chance of spillage.

It of course does also help that the filling was this delightful dark chocolate ganache and was topped with a white chocolate cream…


Pastry can be a fickle beast so if you’re looking for something that you’ve not tried to make before maybe try a cake… just not a sponge.

But do try your hand at tarts- they really are something else. Like anything it can take a few goes and a few lessons to be learnt along the way.  End result?  Always delicious tart in one form or another!

tea smoked ribs

I mentally tucked this recipe away in my head a few weekends ago.  In typical fashion I was flicking through all my books, magazines and Pinterest trying to figure out what I felt like making for dinner.  Flicked past this recipe and thought yum- but not today maybe in a few weeks time.

This recipe is from Neil Perry’s spice temple cook book but I’m sure if you google you could find a similar recipe online. Recipe seemed pretty straightforward- simmer the ribs in aromatics and cool, tea smoke the ribs and then stir fry in a sticky delicious sauce. Simple!

So for the first part of the process I took no photos, and for a good reason.  Water, salt, ginger, garlic, spring onions and the ribs are combined, brought to the boil, simmered for a few minutes and then left to cool in the liquid.  Reason for no photo?  Boiled pork ribs are really ugly- they ain’t pretty.

Let’s move onto something a little more photogenic- making the tea smoking mixture.  This is something I’ve wanted to try for years so I was looking forward to giving it a go.

Making the smoking mix is straightforward- mix brown sugar, jasmine rice (uncooked) and jasmine tea together- done!


The next bit took a while- setting up the smoking station.  I made a wide bowl out of foil, popped it on the bottom of the wok and tipped the smoking mixture in.  Popped a lid on top, turned the heat to high and then patiently waited until the mixture started smoking. Unfortunately I didn’t have a small wire rack that could sit inside the wok so I had to get creative.  

Once the mixture was smoking I balanced the wire rack on top of the wok, assembled the ribs over the smoke mixture and then delicately placed the lid over the top of the ribs.  I had exposed sides all around the edge of the wok which mean I was losing smoke out the sides- so out came the foil and I patched it up.

Ribs smoked for 5 minutes and then you switched off the heat and left it for another few minutes- longer if you wanted them pretty smoky- I found just waiting another 4 minutes was more than enough- they smelt amazing!  However even with the range hood fan cranked up the house was a little smoky- just a warning!

Here’s what the smoking mixture looked like afterwards- charry around the edges and it had solidified- I think that the sugar had probably melted and glued everything together!


Last step- make the caramel and stir fry the ribs in it.  Stir fried garlic and ginger, stirred in sugar and waited until it became a deep caramel colour.  Stir in black vinegar, dark soy sauce and a small amount of chicken stock and cook until slightly thickened.  Add the ribs and continue to stir (this is hard with ribs, so in my case stirring ribs was more like picking up and moving them in the wok with some tongs, less chance of them going overboard!) Cook until the mixture coats the ribs and looks lovely and glossy.

Action shot- look at the caramel bubbling up at the sides.


Pile onto a platter, sprinkle with sesame oil and sesame seeds.  Get plenty of napkins ready because this is messy but worthwhile work- also helps if you have a spare bowl to toss the bones into.

These were really good- the smoke flavour was really pronounced and the sticky soy vinegar sauce was so good.  Only thing next time might be boiling the ribs for a little less time- only criticism was that these were a little dry but that didn’t stop us from hoovering them down!

Definitely want to try tea smoking again but I think I need to sort out a better arrangement for next time! Also wishing I had more ribs now instead of the dishes to do….

Ah well – have you tea smoked anything?  Let me know!

KFC 

KFC in this case isn’t stomping on the bearded man’s territory with his secret stash of herbs- this is korean fried chicken tucked into a burger- freaking good.

I was uninspired yesterday and I had no idea what I felt like making for dinner so I visited my Pinterest boards and flicked through them- tucked away in the ‘Burgers & Sandwiches’ board was this recipe that I’d pinned some time ago.  

It was simple really- marinate the chicken thighs in rice wine, sesame oil, salt and sugar and stir through potato starch prior to frying to make it into a batter, salt some cucumbers, chop up some kimchi and mix up some Japanese mayo with gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)- I was sold- ingredients went on the shopping list.

Love love love going to Asian grocers- I always come out with more than what was was actually on the shopping list- this visit was kimchi, potato starch, gochujang and my favourite Japanese mayo- KEWPIE! And maybe a few snack items…


I also needed some burger buns- I’m not a huge fan of the ones from the supermarket- they can go soggy and I find them a little bit too sweet- and they can be a little bit too big.  I remember someone telling me that a particular restaurant that makes lovely lobster rolls (featured in a earlier post) uses the rolls from Breadtop.  So I also popped in there and picked up some of their buns to try because I couldn’t be bothered making my own that day.  Don’t know if it’s true or not but they certainly look like the buns used in the restaurant!


I mixed up the marinade ingredients for the chicken and popped in the chicken thighs to marinate for a few hours.  Because I was using smaller buns I cut the thighs in half.  One thing to note if you make these is that I think the recipe used way too much salt in the marinade- at least halve what they specify.

While the chicken was marinating I salted the cucumbers to draw out the water and lightly pickle, roughly chopped the kimchi, finely sliced the spring onion and mixed the gochujang with the mayo.

Now it’s time to fry!  I have a deep fryer that I have had for YEARS! So much easier having something temperature controlled and with a timer- when I’m done I just strain out the oil to use – depending on what I’ve cooked in it and for how long I can generally get another 1 to 2 uses out of it.  


I mixed the potato starch through the chicken and the marinade and set the oil in the fryer to come to temperature.  Now I’m still not 100% sure (and please comment if you know!) but I was wondering if there was a difference between potato flour and potato starch- there may be.  It was definitely starchy! Be really wary when cooking this not to overcrowd the deep fryer because that mixture is sticky! I had to keep pulling up the basket to pull apart the chicken pieces that were sticking to each other and to make sure they weren’t sticking to the bottom of the basket.  Just be patient though and keep checking, it’s totally worth it.

See…

Chicken cooked and set aside to keep warm all you need to do is lightly toast the inside of the buns, spread with mayo, top with chicken, kimchi and sprinkle with spring onions, salted cucumbers and top with the bun lid.  Excuse the dodgy cutting of the bun… I slightly massacred it…


Smoosh the top down and eat, and then have a another one and then maybe ponder a third.  Eat a third in our case and then regret it give up half way but still making sure it’s just bun left and not chicken.  Even though we were in burger coma’s we agreed that these would make an appearance again one day.

Try it- even if you just do the fried chicken and top it with the gochujang mayo and spring onions.